Rory McIlroy’s fellow Irish Major Champions Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell led the tributes for the 23 year old history-maker after the season’s final Major saw the 23 year old from Holywood crowned the US PGA Champion.
McIlroy’s record-breaking eight-shot win over David Lynn at Kiawah Island further underlined his staggering ability, and Harrington believes the curly haired one can go on to challenge the intimidating Major record of the great Jack Nicklaus – the man whose US PGA record-winning margin Rory eclipsed on Sunday evening in South Carolina.
“At this stage, people could be saying I was right when I was saying he could challenge Jack,” said Harrington, who still holds the bragging right over his young colleague with three Major titles to his name.
“To get to Tiger's 14 or Jack's 18, you really do have to start doing it when you're in your early 20s, because they don't come around as easy as people think they do. You know, it's prolific winning to win one a year, so he has another 20 years ahead of him, maybe 25 years of golf.
“He's lapped the field twice now. That's two Majors where he has lapped the field and the only other person that's ever done that in Majors in my time has been Tiger. Rory has done it twice now and that's quite impressive.
“He won the U.S. Open last year and he has not had an easy ride of it since then. It brings a lot of pressure with it and I think winning his second Major is going to make things a lot easier for him. I think he'll be a better player for winning this time around.
“The last time heaped a lot of pressure on him and I think winning a second time now will help him relax in that position and make it a lot easier on him going forward; to handle being the Number One player in the world.
McDowell will always have one over his Ryder Cup team-mate due to the fact “my name will always be above his on that US Open trophy”, but the Portrush man concurs with Harrington that McIlroy is a very special player.
“He's a hell of a talented player,” said McDowell. “He's had a few months off by his standards, so you could say he's back to his game. I've been saying it for years how good he is. He showed us at Congressional how good he is; he showed by getting to Number One in the world this year after winning the Honda Classic how good he is, and here we are again.
“Rory was already a star of the game but he's a real superstar now. He's going to be the player that kids look up to; the player that kids measure their own games by. Ten years ago it was Tiger Woods. It still is Tiger Woods to a certain extent, but now we've got superstars like Rory McIlroy for kids to be looking at.
“Young kids now will be looking at how Rory swings the club, how he strikes the golf ball, how he chips with just incredible, touch and feel and technique, and how he has learned how to putt and how to score. And he does it all with a great attitude and great charisma and great character. That's pretty much in a nutshell: he's great for the game, an absolute breath of fresh air for the game of golf. He’s a superstar.”